Black Crusade (RPG)

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Black Crusade
Black Crusade Rulebook 2.jpg
RPG published by
Fantasy Flight Games
Rule System d%
No. of Players 3+
Session Time 10+ minutes
Authors Sam Stewart, Jay Little, Mack Martin, Ross Watson
First Publication 2011
Essential Books Black Crusade Core Rulebook
  • The Game Master's Kit
  • The Hand of Corruption
  • The Tome of Fate
  • The Tome of Blood
  • The Tome of Excess
  • The Tome of Decay


This is for the RPG, not the apocalypse-style crusades by Chaos.

Black Crusade is the fourth Fantasy Flight Games Warhammer 40,000 Role-Playing Game, and its main focus is the forces of Chaos, like cultists and the Traitor Legions.

This is the exact opposite of the earlier books in every way. Even the Human characters in Black Crusade are considerably more powerful than those from previous games, able to receive powerful mutations and game-changing blessings. The Chaos Space Marines are even more powerful, having the benefits available to human heretics as well as the hard combat capabilities of space marines, and weaponry ranges from rune swords, to daemonic bolters, to reaper autocannons. Alignment often leads to extremely interesting role-playing as well.

One of its greatest features is encouraging competition between players, often by making the personal goals of their characters mutually exclusive, or counterproductive to the mission, thus mirroring the climate of a Chaos warband. This can go very right, or oh so wrong.

Ruleset[edit]

Black Crusade still uses the same fundamental d100 system that the previous three RPG settings use, though tidied it up considerably by consolidating similar skills like all the stealth or athletics based skills into just one skill rather than two or three. It also made parrying its own skill, rather than something a player could "just do", as well as changing the nature of talents like swift/lightning attack which put a bit more thought into how a player can use their actions and reactions each turn.

It also introduced the class-less system of "Archetypes" where no skill is restricted from a player because of their class. This is both a good and a bad thing when you really look into it. On the one hand, it gives the players the freedom to create their own character rather than being bound by limited options each level. On the other, the problem this causes is it actively promotes and rewards powergaming and savvy players will completely ignore useless skills and talents (in their own opinion) to give themselves the quickest advantage.

For example: Skills & Talents such as Swift/Lightning Attack, Step Aside, Dodge +20 and Blademaster are all available late in the character development in the previous settings but can all be immediately purchased as soon as the player has the available Exp to spend on them (of course, this implies these talents should have more prerequisites than they do.....) which can make combat situations much more difficult to manage for a GM, and those PCs will also likely be so ignorant of commonplace lore and professional skills that they may not get by in social interactions very well. Knowledge and social skills are often overlooked by the players because they have metagamed their own knowledge of the setting and haven't even thought of purchasing those skills.

Also, talents and skills are unaligned or aligned to a specific Chaos God. Once they reach a certain threshold (every multiple of 10 of Corruption), they tally up the score for each deity and realign themselves if they started to favor one alignment over their previous, and this provides XP discounts and penalties towards future purchases (at least until it's time to recheck alignment). For example, if you start aligned to Khorne, it's cheaper to enhance your melee skills with more Khorne-aligned purchases, doesn't really change purchases for toughening up with Nurgle-aligned skills (since Khorne and Nurgle hate each other the least), and gaining social skills or magic and knowledge skills cost a surcharge (since Khorne really hates Slaanesh and Tzeentch). Staying Unaligned keeps everything from getting expensive, but it locks you out of getting the XP discounts and the other bonuses of being aligned.

At least in the previous rulesets the restriction of available skills at each level forced the creation of an evenly balanced character of his type; a good Black Crusade GM should be reminding their players of the dangers of forgetting to remain balanced, unless of course they are running a very focused campaign, such as a non-stop combat-filled war. A *great* GM should show, not tell, by introducing the characters, repeatedly, into situations where the skills they lack would be very useful/helpful.

The game also introduces two new mechanics: Infamy & Corruption. While Corruption was already a mechanic of the other settings, Black Crusade makes it absolutely crucial. Corruption is gained far more easily as the players have the eye of the chaos gods, and so are more prone to mutation and divine "gifts". Infamy is also a new stat that is accumulated as PCs advance through play, and is used to calculate the equivalent of "Fate Points" in the other settings, as well as determining how readily available purchases and equipment can be found when attempting to gain new gear.

The combined function of these two mechanics essentially puts a time limit on the campaign, as players have to gain infamy as quickly as possible so that they can "ascend" to daemonhood lest they gain too much corruption and devolve into Chaos Spawn instead. Wait, no, no, nArghbwalagh! The actual values required for this are set by the GM and often hidden from the players, but it should always be remembered that Corruption comes more easily than Infamy and players should be wary about gaining too many "gifts".

Archetypes[edit]

Characters don't have classes, but instead have archetypes, each of which is apparently meant to be a blanket term for a specific type of character. Chaos has all sorts of mixed individuals with multiple skill sets; so unlike the other games, you don't have a talent tree limiting you to a specialization beside elite advances, but everything is available to everyone. The only limitation is alignment, which gives you discounts and penalties to the appropriate advances.

The PCs, affectionately called the Heretics, come in two flavors: Chaos Space Marine, and Disciple of Chaos ("regular" humans). Marines start the game equipped with stupid levels of combat abilities, but don't start with too much else. Humans are a bit more balanced in that regard, but will often struggle to keep up with the marines in combat.

The Marines have the following Archetypes to start out with:

  • The Champion is the all-rounder and leader type, good for any situation but not exceptional at any, barring command.
  • The Chosen is the combat-specialist, often seen as a duelist or hero killer build. They specialize in straight up strength of arms, and can be made into any type of combat monster: Ranged, melee or heavy.
  • The Forsaken is the lone wolf and the survivor, essentially a Black Crusade version of a Black Shield. They are practically built for extended operations, survival, and self-reliance.
  • The Sorcerer is the auto-include magic user. He combines the flexible utility of a psyker with the massive physical power of a space marine, and is especially deadly when combat-oriented psychic powers are taken. Starts with a Force weapon which can make it overshadow melee-oriented Chosens in melee when it comes to fighting big and tough things. Because it have decent chances at one-shooting pretty much anything.

The Human disciples of Chaos have the following:

  • The Apostate is the manipulator and schemer [read: the face]. This one is probably the least combat-oriented class (until he starts gathering hordes of cultists, which under the game horde ruleset are pretty much unbeatable once they reach high enough magnitude), but is probably the class with the greatest utility since he has the highest potential for minions and manipulation.
  • The Heretek is the Dark Mechanicus adept, and the obligatory tech character. Useful to have for Tech Use tests and crafting, and probably the toughest of the human archetypes with the upgrades available to him.
  • The Renegade is the combat-oriented archetype for the humans. Strong, but lacking as much raw power as a Marine, yet more flexible.
  • The Psyker has more psychic potential and power than sorcerers, but have a higher chance of bad things happening, and they start with the least combat utility. Way better suited for stealth and social psychic stuff, though. Especially considering most deception and espionage-based psychic powers don't work well for Sorcerers, unless they're trying to infiltrate other Space Marines.

From the Splatbooks[edit]

Each of the splatbooks introduce two archetypes for Humans and for Marines, each themed for, but not necessarily aligned to the corresponding deity. Note that these Archetypes start with more XP than the ones from the Core Rulebook - they are balanced between themselves, and not with the 8 basic ones!

Tome of Fate[edit]

  • Thousand Sons Sorcerer - A slightly stronger Sorcerer that starts with Unnatural Willpower, more talents, more Lore skills, and a bolt pistol with Inferno bolts. He starts aligned to Tzeentch, so he can use psychic powers aligned to him from the start, and he can replace the ones or tens die when he rolls Perils, and can take a Rubric Marine as a regular Minion of Chaos instead of a Greater minion. He's easily considered to be broken as hell once he starts racking up XP - he's effectively the ultimate combat psyker that can reliably be made in the game.
  • Alpha Legion Marine - A sneaky marine who's about fighting smart, with some utility skills. He's great at deceiving people, getting underground contacts, and starting insurrections.
  • Q'Sal Magister Immaterial - A Human character (in the loosest form possible) from the Tzeentch world of Q'Sal. Technically a mutant. He is the most powerful starting psyker, with Psy Rating x4, more XP to sink into psychic powers than anybody else, and the ability to direct the affects of his Perils rolls onto any visible target (friend or foe) at the cost of 1 infamy point. He has some nice utility skills that give him some limited capacity as a face and a sage, also starts aligned to Tzeentch.
  • Idolitrex Magos of Forge Polix - An advanced Heretek, with higher quality augmentations and a Psy Rating x1. A mean, but otherwise standard mad scientist from the 40K 'verse. Has lots of talents that revolve around tech, and plenty of Lore skills and stuff that take advantage of his high Int score. Don't plan on relying on his talents as a Psyker at first, since his Psy Rating max is limited to his Corruption bonus. Has one of the greatest powerbuilding potentials, for he can essentially take anything meant for Hereteks or Psykers - can be broken as hell in the wrong hands when the XP starts coming in.

Tome of Blood[edit]

  • Khorne Berserker - CSM. "Blood for the Blood God!" Everyone knows how great these guys are in combat. Begins aligned to Khorne, but if allegiance changes he permanently loses his close combat rules and a full 8 points from every characteristic. Always take the two Chainaxes! This is what you take when you want to play an adamantine blender.
  • Night Lords Chaos Marine - CSM. Stealth and Shock Marine, specialized combatant focused on melee, while incorporating strong stealth and terror tactics, with other stuff to round him out outside of combat. Can come out of the gate with a sweet Raptor "speed killer" build, and good for being brooding and edgy all the time, but surprisingly little emphasis in the crunch for being a space terrorist.
  • Xurunt Frost Father - Human. Experienced tribal fighters with great leadership. Great close combat weapons, but still starts with using a bow and arrow, even if those can punch through power armor. Also starts out with a giant monster lizard to ride into battle and even kill enemies for you. Plays well aligned to Khorne, and starts that way.
  • Chem-Hunter of Messia - Human. Basically a drug-addict Renegade, with a lot of insane survivalist thrown into the mix. A great character for those who are addicted to drugs, these guys get good bonuses when substance abuse is involved. In addition to the effects of any drug, these guys gain +10 to any skill test bonuses, or +1 to any characteristic bonus, or an extra die roll for drug duration, and they can find the higher quantities easily. They can also make a drug that gives them Unnatural Strength and Toughness (+1) and Frenzy, but can kill anybody else that tries to take it. Best to go with Khorne or Nurgle.

Tome of Excess[edit]

  • Noise Marine - CSM. Well, you know who these guys are, and what they are made of. They begin aligned to Slaanesh of course; and, enjoying it's gifts, there is little that they CANNOT hear with great bonuses to hearing. In battle they get bonuses for every body involved in fighting so the more massive battles, the better. Being masters of sonic weaponry, they are very shooty and can enhance their output once per combat, or alternatively force enemies to test willpower or suffer some nasty effects. As they start with a sonic blaster things start getting loud all the time!
  • Dark Apostle - CSM. Not strictly a Word Bearer, but these guys have all the same things: being a loud, charismatic, and influential servant of the Dark Gods. With their abilities, it almost becomes child's play to convert hordes of Imperial citizens to chaos! They can affect more targets with their Interactions skills than any other archetype and can build altars and monuments to the god(s), empowering rituals and rites aligned to the corresponding god(s). They begin play with an Accursed Crozius, which is easily looked like one of the most powerful melee weapons without possession, but an editing error posted the stats for the possessed Crozius instead of the regular, which is actually a good-but-not-astounding power weapon, though the possessed version is a certified beatstick. Dark Apostles begin play Unaligned.
  • Pirate Prince of the Ragged Helix - Human. Essentially a Chaos Rogue Trader. Aristocratic and pampered, check! Really fucked up, check! Narcissism, influence, space ships... check! It's time to start the FUN! Seeing as they begin play with a space ship and various other high-quality crap (because anything less than the best will make them a lesser person), they can have a lot of FUN that other characters can only dream of - as I said, Chaos Rogue Trader!. They begin play aligned to Slaanesh.
    • Did we mention they have a space ship?
  • Flesh Shaper of Melancholia - Human. Another lot of repressed sick fucks hunters of pleasures. Also, these guys can change their own flesh and bodies of others to gain some very interesting results. As they also have access to the (really broken) Rite of Fleshmoulding, with enough time and "resources" in hand, they can create their own sort of "space marines". The Rite of Fleshmoulding, which gains bonuses on unwilling subjects, can give Regeneration (6), Multiple Arms (6), Natural Armour (6), Unnatural Stats (+6), and more. Sounds good, right? Now imagine how broken this can be when combined with any other powerbuild... They start aligned to Slaanesh.

Tome of Decay[edit]

  • Plague Marine - CSM. Papa Nurgle's favorite rotting pus-sacks. Immune to the negative effects of all diseases, and can use a special Reaction to take a Toughness test that lets them ignore the damage of the next hit by the number of successes on the test. (If this completely nullifies the attack, they gain Fear (1) against the attacker.) They can also spend infamy to release a cloud of smog and flies that hurts anything within 10 m. They obviously begin play aligned to Nurgle.
    • Hilariously broken if one choses to exploit their immunities. RAW they are immune to the effects all disease, toxins and poisons unless they choose to accept them. Poisons include drugs, so a Plague Marine can constantly take drugs and choose to gain the positive affect while ignoring the downsides.
  • Warpsmith - CSM unaligned. If you really felt left out by the Heretek's ability to be the tech-guy (and thus remove the need to protect a flimsy little bag of flesh), this'll be right up your alley. They can spend Infamy to fuck up any tech in their general vicinity, lead cybernetic Minions more effectively, and gain bonuses when creating Daemon Engines. And seeing as this book comes with the rules for creating daemon Engines like Maulerfiends, you can get some pretty awesome minions... Death to the False Omnissiah!
  • Veteran of the Long War - CSM unaligned or aligned as wished. Anything goes type can duplicate a special power from other CSM archetypes at character creation if their alignment's are identical. Also gain one of their gear. Can generate fear in the souls of his hated enemies and inflicts extra damage when attacking them.
  • Writhing World Sorcerer-King - Human aligned to Nurgle. A hideous psyker that always counts as unbound with bonuses when they use Nurgle powers. They are also made of worms, which they can summon as a minion.
  • Death Priest of Mire- Human aligned to Nurgle. Can boost up weapons with extra qualities and eat corpses for extra toughness. Also able to destroy attacking melee weapons. Overall an enchanter/warrior type.
  • Plaguemeister- Human aligned to Nurgle. Basically a plague medic with a vast lore-based knowledge. Able to heal better and of course infect others.
  • Daemon Prince - Basically if you wanted to keep playing after achieving the win condition. Comes in various flavors, but has to be aligned. If your GM enforces this rule, he's officially off of your Christmas card list.

Splatbooks[edit]

  • Core Rulebook - The main book, required for all the others to make sense. Including everything you need to play Black Crusade, it gives general information about the wide, twisted worlds of the Screaming Vortex, and basic rules about minions, daemon weapons, Chaos rituals, a pre-written adventure, and a glorious fourteen pages of mutations.
  • The Game Master's Kit - Standard game master kit; comes with a GM screen with rules on one side, and art on the other, as well as a pre-written adventure. Take good care of it, and your Game Master's kit will take good care of you.
  • Hand of Corruption - A pre-written adventure book in three acts, where the Heretics go to prison and teach everyone how to properly do prison rape also as infiltrate an industrialized Imperial penal world to bring the whole planet into Chaos' writhing, angry, slimy embrace. And when you almost get there...suddenly...Necrons!
  • Binding Contracts - Binding Contracts is a Black Crusade adventure which follows a group of Heretics as they pursue the prophecy of the Many-Eyed, a dread oracle of Chaos. The Ruinous Powers have whispered to her that Solace will end in fire when a star descends from the sky. They murmur that the terror and confusion this event brings about must be properly dedicated to the Chaos Gods. Before this portent appears, the Heretics must infiltrate Solace and rally the wretched mutants that live beneath the hive. Then, once the star burns bright in the sky, they must lead their newly assembled army up one of Hive Solace‚Äôs spires, where they can cast down a rival sorcerer and take control of his ritual to summon a Daemon of unfathomable power to the Materium. If they succeed, the Heretics will have struck a blow against the Imperium within the Calixis Sector and won vast glory for themselves. If they fail, however, the unholy ritual could be their doom.

Books of ye Gods![edit]

There is an ongoing series of books, each one is dedicated to each god, but gives plenty of general rules and fluff to expand on the vanilla game. Each one includes an expanded armory, more rituals, more enemies, daemons, daemon engines, information on worlds and places in the Screaming Vortex, a pre-written adventure, and introduces two archetypes for Marines and two for humans, all themed around the respective god. The books are:

  • The Tome of Fate: The book on Tzeentch, and gives all kinds of info on him, his servants, and playing Tzeentchian heretic archetypes. Introduces the rapetastic Thousand Sons Sorcerer, as well as the Alpha Legionnaire; and two human archetypes that you wouldn't have heard of unless you have the core book: the Q'Sal Magister Immaterial and the Idolitrex Magos of Forge Polix. Other unique features include expanded psychic powers, rules for investigations, and more rules for Necrons.
  • The Tome of Blood: The tome of Khorne, because who else would it go to? New features include turning weapons into Legacy Weapons (think of what sets apart a chainaxe from Gorechild and can be made into daemon weapons); mounted riding rules, which of course edge into rudimentary vehicle rules; advanced horde rules and rules for large-scale battles. Not too much unique stuff, but then everything is about the ways to wage and rage war in Khorne's name. Also introduces the overtly broken Khorne Berzerker class, the Night Lords marine, the Frost Father who is a Khornate tribal warrior, and the Chem Hunter, a drug addict who was too hardcore to be thrown in with that pussified Slaanesh book. Oh, and ever wanted to summon a greater daemon? This is your tome! Also, it's the first book to mention Doomrider in ages.
  • The Tome of Excess: Slaanesh's tome. Gives us the Emperor's Children Noise Marine and a Word Bearers Dark Apostle, also a Rogue Trader-like Pirate Prince and the surgeon/face Flesh Shaper. Also noted that there is no Unaligned archetype for humans, which is UTTER BULLSHIT frickin' sweet! something players should judge for themselves. New rules include extended rules for minions, verbal combat, seducing NPCs and fellow heretics, and has all kinds of small rites to perform to appease specific gods. The Khornate rites are the most amazing things ever, like rip the spine and skull of a still living enemy out intact and scream your allegiance to the blood god to grant you a little bit of corruption and infamy. The expanded armory includes drugs and rock'n'roll, but nothing explicitly about sex. Probably because Slaanesh is a registered sex offender and has to tread carefully, or something.
  • Tome of Decay: The long-awaited splatbook for Nurgle, although it seems to combine both Nurglite topics and content that might have been included in the unaligned/Undivided book. Specifically, it has three new Marine Archetypes (Plague Marines, Warpsmiths. and Veterans of the Long War, which better fits the Chosen than the Chosen does), three human Archetypes (Sorcerer-Kings of the Writhing World, Death-Priests of Mire, and Plaguemeisters), rules for possession, building your own custom Daemon Engines, some stuff for running your own Black Crusade, ascension to Daemonhood, and, of course, the assorted new weapons, armour, enemies, and worlds that come with every book. A bit of a skub book because some felt it was a bit rushed when they finally got around to making it, and there could have been much more Nurgley stuff that was left out in favor of a lot of things that could have been more neatly filed under Chaos Undivided. Officially retconned that Daemon Princes had to be Marked by a specific god and so you couldn't ascend unless you chose one, which furthered the skub.

There had also used to be some rumours of a fifth book for Chaos Undivided, presumably covering unaligned archetypes (i.e. Black Legion and Red Corsairs) and providing the "higher-level" content, but, as we've said above, it seems to have been combined into the Tome of Decay.

See Also[edit]

Warhammer 40,000 Role-playing games made by Fantasy Flight Games
Dark Heresy - Rogue Trader - Deathwatch - Black Crusade - Only War - Dark Heresy Second Edition